Little Falls City Council has to decide how to enforce sign ordinance

Monday, the Little Falls City Council has some work to do now that the new sign ordinance is in effect.

The Council unanimously approved the new ordinance during its July 2 meeting. It was published July 8, and as of Sunday, July 15, is now in effect.

The next task the Council faces is to figure out how the ordinance will be enforced, who will be responsible for finding violations and where in the city to begin.

The Council must also determine whether warning letters will be sent and how many will be sent before a citation is issued.

During its work session Monday, the Council will discuss the direction it will take.

During its regular meeting, a resolution regarding administration of the sign ordinance will be introduced. The resolution was still in the hands of the attorney as of press time and not available for review.

Violating a provision of the city’s ordinance, per section 5.99 of the city code, is a misdemeanor.

Once a misdemeanor citation is issued, it must be resolved in court and is out of the city’s hands.

Although the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, Little Falls City Attorney Toni Wetzel said it would be highly unlikely for a judge to give a maximum penalty.

“The judge can impose no jail time and a fine, or a fine and jail time, or just a fine, or just jail time — the court can do what it wants,” said Wetzel. “It would be very unusual to go in and have a sign offense and the judge throw them in jail.”

Wetzel said the judge will likely take into account the level of noncompliance and how many warnings were given.

“It would be virtually unheard of for a court, for this type of offense, to jail someone,” she said.

What is more likely to happen, said Wetzel, is that the penalty will be stayed. That means the judge will give a certain length of time for the resident to comply and if in that time, they do not, then the penalty, whether it is a fine or some jail time, will be imposed.

“They hang it over your head to say if you don’t do what I tell you then you will go to jail,” said Wetzel.

Monday’s meetings are open to the public. The work session begins at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room, followed by the regular Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber, both at City Hall.

The new sign ordinance in Little Falls is in effect as of Sunday, July 15, and the City Council has to come up with a plan on how to enforce it. Pictured above are some of the signs that will not be in compliance with the city’s sign ordinance that does not allow signs advertising a sale, event or business, to be placed anywhere other than on the property where the business, sale or event is located.